• The Hub

    News, Notes, Talk

    8 books that demand to be read outside.

    Emily Temple

    April 21, 2023, 9:30am

    Tomorrow is Earth Day, our annual reminder to spare a thought for our spinning planet lest we destroy it completely. Come on guys, how will we read outside if there is no outside left? If you’re lucky enough to be able to spend some time in the out-of-doors this weekend, here are some books that would probably like to come with you. (And for more on a similar theme, I recommend checking out Lit Hub’s Climate Change Library along with Kim-Marie Walker’s necessary addition.)

    Bluets Maggie Nelson cover

    Maggie Nelson, Bluets

    It’s only outside that one can truly get drunk on a color, be it blue or otherwise. Put this little book in your pocket and let Maggie Nelson teach you how to really look.

    Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

    Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

    Poems about life, the universe and everything (and David Bowie) to be properly read with a flashlight on a warm summer night, perched on the roof of your house, or somewhere else you can stop to remember the sky, while the sounds of regular life ring out from below, through the open windows.

    Richard Powers, The Overstory

    Richard Powers, The Overstory

    A new classic of eco-fiction in which trees are the main characters, but also an engrossing, wide-reaching drama that will keep you pinned into place under whatever oak you’ve chosen for shade. And when you’re done, you may just see said oak a little differently.

    The Baron in the Trees Italo Calvino

    Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees

    A writer as joyous as Calvino always deserves to be read outside, where one feels the most human and where possibilities feel close at hand (at least in the summer). But if I had to choose (and I do, this being a list), I have to recommend the silly and lovely and sometimes profound The Baron in the Trees, in which a young nobleman climbs a tree and simply refuses to come down again. Must be nice!

    jemisin fifth season

    N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season

    The first book in Jemisin’s beloved trilogy is gripping enough to keep you reading outdoors until you squint and realize that it’s somehow gotten too dark to see the page in front of you. It will also make you feel very grateful for the seasons we still have—things could be (and might someday be) a lot worse.

    Aimee Nezhukumatathil Oceanic 

    Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Oceanic

    If your current version of “outside” happens to be seaside, first of all, lucky you, and second of all, you’ll probably want to make your way through Nezhukumatathil’s lush poetry of the natural world slowly, page by page, with your feet in the sand so you never forget your connection to the world.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    Garden parties, tennis clothes, swimming pools, summer whites. It’s not a “nature” book by any stretch, but it’s just the thing for spending an afternoon on a bench in a well-appointed garden (or just a New York City park), mint julep (or lemonade from the bodega) in hand.

    the nature book

    Tom Comitta, The Nature Book

    The most recent book on this list, and to be fair, a total gimme: a “literary supercut” of descriptions of nature from other books. For dipping in and blissing out.

  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.

    %d bloggers like this: